Sunday, January 15, 2017

Along the Banks of Cocytus

Significant damage to the front stairs of the central library from a fallen tree limbWinter storm Jupiter* arrived Tuesday afternoon, dumping anywhere between four and fifteen inches of snow on Portland — the most we've had since 1980, which I only very vaguely recall — and still the city is coated in a thick patina of compacted snow and ice. As expected, I lost the first of my newly-acquired Wednesdays (from the other dishwasher); the fourth day this winter has cost me, or about half a paycheck. That's too much money to lose because my city government would rather blow money on useless gimmicky kitsch catered to tourists and monied out-of-staters (e.g. green-demarcated bike lanes and crossings and ugly modern art sculptures at streetcar stops) than invest it in our ailing infrastructure and plan contingently for the future possibility of hotter summers and colder winters.

A worker from Tri-Met shoveling in front of a bus stuck on SW 11th Ave downtownIt hasn't snowed in three days, yet even with a state of emergency declared I'm still watching people struggle to stay upright as they navigate treacherous sidewalks, doggedly insisting on going about their lives. WHY aren't there people sanding and shoveling the sidewalks? It's actually the law for owners of properties to clear adjacent sidewalks — enough of a law that anyone who falls and injures himself can sue the property owner! Unfortunately, the city of Portland doesn't stipulate any time requirements for sidewalks to be cleared, and the bureau of transportation doesn't enforce the law because it “...encourage[s] the public to be ... civic-minded about this.” Which sounds about as useful a statute as one stipulating that rapists be convicted and incarcerated ONLY if they turn themselves in and willingly confess. Considering how this stuff isn't expected to start thawing until Monday night or early Tuesday morning, this means a total of five days will have passed wherein we've all been effectively entombed in ice like hapless Ötzi, all because our city government is inept and in the pockets of ex-pat Californians and Chinese tourists, our local businesses care only for the letter of the law, and locals who unceasingly congratulate themselves on their gentility and sense of community involvement are in fact not even situationally civic-minded.

An entire tree uprooted on NW Overton near Good Sam hospitalThis is the last straw for me, as far as putting up with this city's bullshit is concerned. I'm waiting for a reply email from city hall, scheduling me for a three minute slot to testify before the city council. I'm going to demand that the law be changed to require sidewalks to be cleared of snow and ice within four hours of first snowfall (like in the neighboring city of Beaverton) AND be vigorously enforced — including an option for citizens to report violations to city hall so that non-compliant property owners may be fined — and suggest that in future such instances the city employ rapid-response emergency work crews drafted from jails and hired from local homeless shelters and day centers to keep the sidewalks clear in parts of the city where significant commerce is conducted and high concentrations of elderly and mobility-impaired residents live.

* Who names these storms, anyway? Anyone with any sense knows Sailor Mars is the REAL bombshell.

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